TURNER PRIZE 2015

One of the art world’s most prestigious prizes has been awarded to…an architecture studio?

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At ceremony held in a former tram station in Glasgow, Scotland, a change-minded collective won the prestigious Turner Prize for contemporary art tonight (Dec. 7).

In the 31-year history of the UK’s top art competition, this is the first time that the £25,000 (about USD 37,600) prize has been awarded to an architecture and design practice—further blurring the distinction among these disciplines.

“They don’t occupy the realm of the single genius solitary artist,” said juror Alistair Hudson said of prize winner Assemble, to Channel 4 news. “This is collective activity working within society, not in the hierarchical structure of the art world.”

Founded in 2010, Assemble is a 15-person collective comprised of artists, architects and designers who work in tandem with local communities for their DIY-driven projects. Assemble was recognized specifically for its ongoing work with a run-down estate in Liverpool called “The Granby Four Streets,” where they’ve revived 10 homes in the neighborhood.

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(Granby Workshop/Assemble)

The Turner Prize is organized by UK museum Tate Britain, and was announced this year by Kim Gordon of the US rock band Sonic Youth. In the presentation video produced by Tate Britain, 28-year-old Assemble co-founder Lewis Jones speaks of the elasticity of “art”:

“For some people, they say [this project] is art, for someone else, it’s the street they’ve lived all their lives and are battling to save, for someone else it’s a new home they’re just moving into.”

Assemble were early favorites in the contest, and bested emerging contemporary artists Bonnie Camplin, Janice Kerbe and Nicole Wermers. Camplin had developed a room-sized installation about our psychic life; Kerbe, an opera piece called “Doug;” and Wermers, a satirical installation of ordinary dining chairs draped with fur coats in commentary on consumer culture. These finalists were awarded £5,000 each.

Named after painter J.W. Turner, the Turner Prize was founded to promote contemporary art in Britain. Past winners include art auction elite like Anish Kapoor, Gilbert & George, Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin. The selection has been controversial in the past—so much so that spoofs like the Turnip Prize have emerged alongside the real thing.

Assemble’s work, along with that of the three finalists, will be on exhibit at Tramway until Jan. 17, 2016.

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